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    Friday, 8 March 2019

    Govaguru Wetland, an oasis in the middle of Chivi


    LETHUMUSA MABHENA

    CHIVI – Driving 50km due South in Chibi, one of Zimbabwe’s driest district, its all dry river beds and ground as cracked as a dry cake.
    The terrain is dominated by open ground and scattered shrubs and one can be pardoned for thinking that we are driving through the Sahara Desert. Cattle are hard to come by and when they do they are as skinny as one can imagine.
    Ironically this is mid-summer (February 13) when the fields should be green and streams and rivers flooded.
    Dust spews and rises up from the road behind us, leaving a grey trail stretching as far back as the eye could see. Eight local journalists from Masvingo pack the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Prado Land Cruizer and we discuss current issues ranging from the economy, social to politics.
    The discussions keeps us busy and so does the unusual vegetation and terrain that we pass through. Suddenly we turn left from the main dust road into a narrow path. For about 15 minutes we run through some villages and the area suddenly becomes hilly and mountainous and wow towards the end of Mutambisi Village we get a big relief,  a large patch of green;  the green, green grass of home.
    EMA is commemorating belated World Wetlands Day. The actual day for the commemoration this year was February 2 and the theme is; Wetlands and climate change.
    EMA Provincial Manager Milton Muusha said the commemorations were to recognise the important role that wetlands play in assisting communities cope with the impact of climate change and other weather effects like droughts and floods.
    We have arrived at Govaguru Wetland, one of the four preserved wetlands in Chivi. This is a critical source of water for 10 villages and EMA has spent $6 000 supporting the preservation of the wetland, according to Netsai Chimhiti, the parastatal’s district environmental officer.
    Fifty people including officials from Agritex, Forestry Commission, Friends of Environment, the councillor, the headman for the area and committee members of the wetland project gather for the occasion.
    Govaguru in English literally means big stream.
    Chimhiti said that wetlands are important and must be preserved for the good of the ecosystem. She said communities everywhere in the world depend on wetlands for water and there are many types of wetlands and they include mash, ponds and even dams. She said that Kariba Dam is an example of a wetland.
    She said research shows that 61,8 million people throughout the world are dependent on fish from wetlands.
    In Chivi wetlands are in danger of extinction because of competition between animals and human beings for sustenance. Animals graze and drink water from the wetlands while people carry out agricultural activities on the same wetlands.
    “People in Chivi and elsewhere in the country have been encroaching onto wetlands thereby destroying them,” said Chimhiti.
    She said that work on preserving Govaguru Wetland started in 2013.
    The place is between a range of hills and there is a lot of runoff coming from the hills. In the area that is now protected there is a spring from which villagers  used to collect  water for domestic use.
    EMA has now demarcated the place as a wetland and fenced off an area covering 2,6 hectares where cattle don’t graze and there are no human activities.
    “In order to ensure that villagers are actively involved in this, we have started projects from which they directly benefit. This is an incentive for them to protect the wetland. We have built a weir which has water throughout the year and from the weir they water their gardens and their cattle drink water particularly in the last three weeks when the water situation in Chivi became dire.
    “We are also starting bee keeping projects at the wetland and we will soon approach the National Parks so that they can support us with fish for fish farming,” she said.
    Ten villages are currently benefitting from the Wetland.
    Chimhiti said that there are four preserved wetlands in Chivi District and the other three are Magwenzi, Masinire and Chivasa.
    One of the most successful wetlands  in Masvingo Province is Maturure in Bikita where a fairly large dam has been built and is a source of water for the Roman Catholic-run Silveira Mission. Villagers in the area are also doing irrigation courtesy of the success story of the wetland.
    Mutambisi Village head, Tinago Mutambisi said that the preservation of the wetland has improved villagers’ lives as they now get clean water and their cattle are also assured of water from the weir.
    Statistics given by EMA Masvingo indicate that out of 156 wetlands in Zimbabwe; 7% are stable, 56% are moderately degraded and 37% are severely degraded whilst out of 71 wetlands in Masvingo 40 are protected.
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